The Crimes of the Killer Couple Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo

Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka
Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. Family Photo

One of Canada's most infamous female serial killers, Karla Homolka, was released from prison after serving a short 12-year sentence for her involvement in drugging, raping, torturing and killing young girls. The dead teens included her young sister Tammy, whose innocence was offered by Homolka to her boyfriend, Paul Bernardo, as a gift.

Childhood Years

Karla Homolka was born on May 4, 1970, to Dorothy and Karel Homolka in Port Credit, Ontario.

She was the oldest child of three, well adjusted, pretty, smart, popular, and received ample love and attention by friends and family. Karla developed a passion for animals and after high school, she went to work at a veterinary clinic. On outside appearances, everything about Karla seemed normal. No one suspected that she was hiding deep psychotic desires that had yet to be unleashed.

Homolka and Bernardo Meet

At age 17 Homolka attended a pet convention in Toronto and met 23-year-old, Paul Bernardo. Bernardo was an attractive blonde, appeared to be smart and charmingly persuasive. The two had sex on the day that they first met. They quickly discovered that they shared the same sadomasochistic desires, with Paul moving quickly into the position of master, and Homolka willingly taking the role as the slave, obsessed with fulfilling Bernardo's every fantasy.

Scarborough Rapist

Over the next few years, the relationship between Homolka and Bernardo intensified and they shared and encouraged each other's psychotic behavior.

It was during this time that Bernardo was involved in raping women with the approval of Homolka. The uncaught Bernardo was dubbed as the Scarborough Rapist by the police and the media. His specialty was to attack women getting off of busses, making them endure violent anal rape and different levels of humiliation.

A Surrogate Virgin

One of Bernardo's constant complaints with Homolka was that she was not a virgin when they met. Homolka, devoted to pleasing Bernardo every way possible, knew of his attraction to her 15-year-old sister, Tammy, whose virginity was intact. The two decided that they would force Tammy into being a surrogate virgin for her older sister. To help accomplish this, Homolka stole the animal anesthetic, Halothane from the vet clinic where she worked.

On December 23, 1990, at a Christmas party at the Homolka family home, Bernardo and Homolka served Tammy alcoholic drinks spiked with halcyon. After family members retired, the two took Tammy to the basement and Homolka held a cloth soaked in Halothane to Tammy's mouth. Once Tammy was unconscious the couple raped her. During the rape, Tammy began choking on her own vomit and ultimately died. The drugs in Tammy's system went undetected and her death was ruled an accident.

Another Present for Bernardo

Homolka and Bernardo, unscathed by the death of Tammy, moved in together. Bernardo blamed Homolka for Tammy's death and complained that she was no longer around for Bernardo to enjoy sexually. Homolka decided a teenager named Jane would make a good replacement.

She was young and virginal and seemed to idolize the attractive and older Homolka. Homolka invited the unsuspecting teen out to dinner, and like with Tammy, she spiked the girl's drinks then invited the intoxicated teen to her home.

Once there, Homolka administered the Halothane, and presented her present, the young pretty Jane, to Bernardo. The couple then engaged in brutal sexual attacks of the unconscious teen, capturing the events on videotape. The next day when the teenager awoke, she was sick and sore but had no idea of the violation her body had endured. Jane, unlike others, was one victim that managed to survive the encounter with the couple.

Leslie Mahaffy

The thirst for Bernardo to share his rapist activities with his lover Homolka increased. On June 15, 1991, Bernardo kidnapped Leslie Mahaffy and brought her to the couple's home.

Bernardo and Homolka repeatedly raped Mahaffy over a course of several days, videotaping many of the assaults. They eventually killed Mahaffy and cut her body into pieces, encased the pieces in cement, and threw the cement in a lake. On June 29 Mahaffy's remains were found by a couple canoeing on the lake.

Bernardo and Homolka Marry

June 29 was also the day that Bernardo and Homolka were married in an elaborate wedding held at the Niagara-on-the-Lake church. Bernardo had been in control of the wedding plans which included the two riding in a white horse-drawn carriage with the bride dressed in an expensive white gown. The wedding guests were served a lavish sit-down meal after the couple exchanged their vows which included, at Bernardo's insistence Homolka vowing to "love, honor, and obey' her new husband.

Kristen French

On April 16, 1992, the couple kidnapped 15-year-old Kristen French from a church parking lot after Homolka lured her to their car, pretending to need directions. The couple brought French to their home and for several days videotaped their acts of humiliating, torturing and sexually abusing the teen. French tried hard to survive the attack but right before the couple left for Easter Sunday dinner with Homolka's family, they killed her. Her body was found on April 30 in a ditch in Burlington.

Homolka Leaves Bernardo

In January 1993, Homolka separated from Bernardo because of the constant physical abuse that he subjected her to for several months. His attacks had become increasingly ferocious, resulting in Homolka being hospitalized.

She left him and moved in with her sister's friend who was a police officer.

Closing In On the Scarborough Rapist

Evidence in helping police identify the Scarborough Rapist was building. A composite drawing of the suspect was released, and a work associate of Bernardo's contacted the police and reported that Bernardo looks matched the sketch. The police interviewed Bernardo and obtained a saliva swab from him which later tested positive, but it was not until 1993 that an exact forensic match was made proving Bernardo was the Scarborough Rapist.

The Ontario Green Ribbon Task Force

The Ontario Green Ribbon Task Force assigned to solving the murders of the girls was closing in on Bernardo and Homolka. Homolka was fingerprinted and questioned. Of particular interest to the detectives was regarding a Mickey Mouse watch that Homolka had that looked like one that Kristen French had on the night she disappeared. Homolka learned during the questioning that Bernardo was identified as the Scarborough rapist. She also knew the rest of their crimes would soon be uncovered.

Homolka, realizing the pair was going to be caught, confessed to her uncle that Bernardo was a serial rapist and murderer. She also obtained a lawyer and began negotiations into a plea bargain in exchange for her testimony against Bernardo. In mid-February, Bernardo was arrested and charged with the Scarborough rapes and the murders of Mahaffy and French. During the search of the couple's home, a diary of Bernardo's with written descriptions of each crime was discovered.

The Worst Plea Bargain In Canada's History

A plea bargain was discussed for Homolka which she would get a twelve-year sentence for her participation in the crimes in exchange for her testimony. The government agreed to her being eligible for parole after serving three years with good behavior. Homolka quickly agreed to all terms and the deal was set. Later, after all of the  evidence was in, the plea bargain became known as being one of the worst in the history of Canada, with the government accused of making a deal with the Devil.

A Deal is a Deal - Even With the Devil

Homolka always portrayed herself as an abused wife forced into participating in Bernardo's criminal activity. It was not until the several videotapes that Homolka and Bernardo made were turned into police by an ex-lawyer of Bernardo's, that it became clear that Homolka enjoyed herself with their victims and the truth to Homolka's involvement in the crimes came to light. Regardless of her obvious guilt, a deal was a deal, and she could not be retried for her crimes.

Denied Parole

Bernardo ended up being convicted on all counts of rape and murder and he received a life sentence on September 1, 1995. Homolka went before the parole board in March 2001, but the National Parole Board denied her application for parole, stating "The board believes that, if released, you are likely to commit an offense causing the death of or serious harm to another person before the expiration of the sentence you are now serving."

Party Prison

Rumors of Homolka's incarceration being too lenient surfaced after pictures of her sunbathing and partying with other prisoners was published in Canadian newspapers. Tabloids reported that she was in a lesbian relationship with Christina Sherry, who was a convicted child-rapist. It was later determined that her lesbian lover was not Sherry, but Lynda Verrouneau, who was convicted of participating in a bank robbery.

Homolka's Release

On July 4, 2005, Homolka was released from Ste-Anne-des-Plaines prison. Court-ordered restrictions were placed on Homolka as a condition of her release:

  • Provide police with her home address, work address and with whom she lives.
  • Notify police of any change to the above information.
  • Required to notify police of any change to her name.
  • Required to give 72 hours' notice if she planned to be away from home for more than 48 hours.
  • Forbidden to contact Paul Bernardo, the families of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French or that of the woman known as Jane Doe (see above), or any violent criminals.
  • Forbidden to be with people under the age of 16.
  • Forbidden from taking drugs other than prescription medicine.
  • Required to continue therapy and counseling.
  • Required to provide police with a DNA sample.

Homoka's lawyers said she was in a "state of terror" of being released.

"She is paralyzed with fear, completely panicked," one of her attorneys, Christian Lachance, said. "When I saw her she was in a state of terror, almost in a trance. She cannot conceive of what her life will be like outside."

Bernardo is serving a life sentence.

Source:
The Unknown Darkness by Gregg O. McCrary
Deadly Innocence by Scott Burnside
Transcript of Karla Homolka's Interview -cbc.ca